“And I’m calling you a fool. From what I heard she doesn’t even have a reason to try and kill us all. And so it is normal to think there is some other purpose. Zaza, you should have realized that!”

“Uh, that is true, but… Well, ultimately, it was quite a show. Wasn’t it?”

Zaza chuckled awkwardly.

◆◆◆

Now, on to the main subject.

Everyone was shocked by the revelation that Zaza was a spy, but one cough from Michelle had them all tense again.

“I am sure you have a lot you would like to say about me and the city. But I ask that you set them aside for now. The reason that I came here directly is because I have sensed a disturbing presence within the city. I can no longer trust those on the upper level. It has become difficult to determine who is on my side. And so I want collaborators on the outside. Though, it is very sad and ironic that you are all more trustworthy than the people of the city…”

“Wait a minute. A disturbing presence? What do you mean?”

“Exactly. You sound as if you are saying you have enemies within the city. But no one in the resistance has ever succeeded in entering it. What is this enemy you are afraid of…?”

Rindo and Sharma were quick to question her on this point.

Michelle seemed to think about it for a moment before opening her mouth.

“Yes, since I am asking for your help, it is only right that I tell you. However, this must be kept a secret—”

And so she began to tell them.

Even Zaza had not known about it. This ‘shadow’ that Michelle was facing.

In the first place, what was the cause of the great war?

The biggest reason was the forecast about starvation. That and the explosively rising population.

Still, even if that forecast hadn’t been made, you could say that the collapse was only a matter of time.

“Don’t you think it is strange? If those who entered the city didn’t have to work, that would mean less work every time a city was made. It was said that people would be selected through a lottery, but that was not the case. Those who were brilliant or had good genes were selected first. That was how the five cities gained their population…”

They nodded as Michelle explained.

As long as the labor force was so connected to the completion of a city, it would be difficult to continue buildings cities once a certain number had been completed.

Whatever the deciding factor was, it was really just a trigger.

No, if anything…

“…Once you have finished acquiring a certain number of brilliant personnel, they cut off and abandoned the rest. That’s what I started to think.”

Michelle paused here.

She looked around to see the reaction of the others.

Sharma was closing her eyes and seemed to be deep in thought.

Rindo looked shocked.

Zaza remained quiet, perhaps he had already sensed it.

Karman was smoking his cigar, processing the information in his own way.

“That… Is there proof…?”

Sharma asked.

Michelle nodded.

“No proof. It is all my own speculation. However–”

–However.

The seventh city did not have enough troops to defend themselves.

On top of that, the defense systems were incomplete and would not activate. That was why the city became the first casualty in the war.

They had taken in refugees from the sixth city, which resulted in their ruin.

After that, the other five cities united. They now had a reason to refuse any refugees entry.

And that was how the Mechanized Empire of Almsbine was born.

The population that had been on the rise suddenly began to plummet. All the technology of the world was now focused in the empire.

If only the radiation that polluted the world could be removed…no, even that…

–What if all of it had been planned?

Every incident may look unrelated when viewed by themselves, but if looked at from a bird’s eye view, you might see a different picture.

It all seemed to move too conveniently for the empire.

“Then!! Are you saying that it was all planned by the emperor!?”

Sharma shouted in horror.

However, Michelle remained calm.

“I have no proof. Even circumstantial evidence is weak. Still, it is also true that the dots connect when considered in this way. And that is why I have been investigating in secret.”

She continued calmly.

And then…

“And so, I want people that I can trust. Please, will you help me?”

She said.

……….

……

They all sat in silence.

They were unsure about how they should react.

They didn’t know if they should say yes or no.

It was in this oppressive atmosphere that Veldora’s laugh suddenly echoed.

“Kaaahahahahaha! Help you? Very well! We were just talking about crushing this empire or whatever you call it. So it is perfect. Of course, you will also help, won’t you?”

He said as he put a hand on Zaza’s shoulder.

“Hey, what!? You know, you really should…”

Zaza was confused, but he soon made up his mind.

“Well, I had already offered my life to General Michelle. And so I will believe that this is for the good of the rest of humanity!”

He said. Then he smiled at the laughing Veldora.

Next, it was Karman and his men.

“Huh. In that case, I will also help you. If the great war really had been planned from the beginning, it would make everything I have done up until now a joke. I cannot stand the thought. Can the rest of you?”

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